SwitchBot Pan/Tilt Cam
- 1080p video by day or night.
- Automatic panning and object tracking.
- Can integrate with other SwitchBot devices.
- Multiple smart features.
- Needs to be plugged in to work.
- Only works on 2.4GHz WiFi.
- Only available in white.
Home is the one special place in the world that’s supposed to be perfectly safe. It’s your own personal sanctuary, where you can retreat, rest, and regenerate. It’s where your family lives, and where you hope they’re totally secure.
That’s why having your house broken into can feel like such a violation. Even if nothing of value is taken, it can feel like your personal space is no longer safe. That’s why a lot of people install home security cameras. They allow you to keep an eye on things even when you’re not able to be physically present.
In the past, home security cameras were the domain of the 1%. For one thing, they were expensive to install. For another thing, you needed a lot of space for monitoring, with a dedicated TV and VCR. If you wanted to save your recordings, you’d have a rack of VHS tapes.
And for all of this trouble, you’d get grainy black-and-white video. Remote monitoring wasn’t even a thing until a few years ago. So even if you could afford a home security camera, there was little point in buying one.
But technology has changed a lot in recent years. Modern cameras are more affordable than their older counterparts, and provide better video quality. And with high-speed internet, anyone with a smartphone can remotely monitor their own camera. What used to be an expensive luxury is now an affordable tool for everyday people.
SwitchBot Pan/Tilt Cam
We’re about to review the SwitchBot Pan/Tilt Indoor WiFi Cam. This is a compact camera that’s designed to monitor an entire room. It can rotate 360 degrees, and tilt vertically to 115 degrees, which is pretty impressive. But that’s just one of many features we need to think about.
We’ll have to talk about the video quality, as well as the night vision mode. We’ll have to look at the power supply, and how your videos are stored. And of course, we’ll have to evaluate the smartphone app and user interface. After we’ve factored in all of those things, we’ll have a better understanding of how well it works. Let’s begin!
Design & Installation
The SwitchBot Pan/Tilt Indoor WiFi Cam has a unique, quirky design. The footprint is roughly circular, at 4.09 inches wide and 3.94 inches tall, but it’s not a regular cylinder.
Instead, the base flares out slightly above the bottom, then slowly tapers towards the top. The upper portion of the housing is arched, so the top is shaped almost like a hemisphere. The total height is only 6.26 inches, giving it a small overall profile. The bulk of the housing is white, with an easy-to-clean matte finish.
Inside the top portion is the lens housing, which is a globe that peeks out through a gap in the front. When the lens is pointed towards you, it’s clearly visible behind a blacked-out glass cover. Just underneath, if you look closely, you’ll see a visible microphone hole. Just above the lens is a tiny white LED, which lets you know when the camera is active. When the camera is turned off, the lens will roll back into the housing, and will no longer be visible.
The camera is easy to set up just about anywhere. With the flat base, it can sit on a table, desk, or shelf without any extraneous parts. However, the base is also threaded, which allows for alternative mounting methods. You can put it on a threaded ceiling mount, and have it right in the top center of your room. Threaded wall mounts are also a viable option. Point being, you have plenty of choices, and you’re not just locked into one kind of position.
Connectivity, on the other hand, is a bit of a mixed bag. Power is supplied by a USB Type-A to Micro USB cable, which is included in the package. This means you don’t have to charge any batteries. But it also means your camera will only work as long as your power is on. Not only that, but it means you need to run a wire to the nearest power outlet. Depending on where your camera is positioned, this could be unattractive.
Along the same lines, you can only connect to the 2.4GHz WiFi band. This is the longer-range of the two bands, so it’s not an issue for placement. But it limits your data transfer speed, compared to the faster 5GHz band. With so many dual-band devices on today’s market, we’re not sure SwitchBot chose to go this route.
On the plus side, you can integrate the Pan/Tilt Indoor WiFi Cam with SwitchBot’s other products. Using the SwitchBot Hub Mini, you can even use it with a “scene” through the app for more complicated applications.
For example, we recently reviewed the SwitchBot Curtain, an automated curtain-opening robot. You could set your camera to turn off whenever your curtains are opened. Since you’re presumably home at that time, having the camera off would preserve your privacy.
The SwitchBot Indoor WiFi Cam captures video in crisp 1080p. For an outdoor camera, this would be a bit underpowered. But for an indoor camera, it’s all you’re ever going to need. You’ll see plenty of detail to recognize small objects and fine facial features. This is a far cry from grainy, old-school security camera footage, where you couldn’t see any details. Everything is nice and clear, and the colors are bright and vivid.
When it gets dark, a set of infrared LEDs light up around the lens. These are invisible to the naked eye, but they bathe your room in an infrared glow. The night vision system is then able to capture crisp, clear details. To be fair, this footage will be in black and white. But it’s not blurry like a lot of night vision footage.
As we mentioned, the Pan/Tilt Indoor WiFi cam can pan and tilt. It’s in the name! The 360-degree panning function allows you to view an entire room from a single camera. Set it up in the middle of the room, and spin the lens around to look in any direction.
Meanwhile, a 115-degree vertical tilt makes ceiling-mounting a viable choice. Depending on your camera’s position, it can cover quite a large area. There are a few operating modes, and we’ll discuss them in a minute. But by default, the camera will automatically track people and pets as they move around the room. This helps ensure that important details aren’t being left out of frame.
Your camera’s footage is transmitted using the HTTPS protocol. This is the same protocol used throughout the web to ensure a secure connection. Your connection with your camera is as safe as your connection with your bank’s website, for example. You don’t have to worry about hackers snooping on your data and remotely viewing your camera.
Storage & Monitoring
To control the SwitchBot camera, you’ll first need to install the smartphone app. It’s free, and it only takes a few minutes to set up. Follow the instructions to pair your phone with your camera, and you’ll be ready to go.
The camera will trigger whenever it detects motion in the area, and you’ll get a push alert on your phone. This allows you to check in whenever there’s activity. If you’re busy at the moment, you can click the alert, and you’ll see the relevant video clip. That way, you can keep an eye on things without constantly monitoring a live feed.
The motion detector is programmed to trigger for humans and pets, not inanimate objects. If you have an oscillating fan running, for example, it shouldn’t trigger motion alerts. Similarly, you can limit motion detection to certain spots, such as doorways.
This will keep the camera focused on those areas, looking for motion. Alternatively, you can set the camera to patrol through a series of waypoints. In this mode, it will constantly scan around, looking at various areas for motion. You can even set it to spin slowly in a circle and monitor the entire room. It all depends on your needs.
When you get an alert, you’ll be able to take advantage of two-way voice communication. This is a surefire way to scare the living daylights out of any intruder. On a more everyday note, you can check in with your kids, or tell your dog to get off the furniture. The built-in microphone can also be used to deliver voice commands via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Your video is stored in the cloud for a limited period of time. SwitchBot isn’t clear on the time or storage limit, but it seems to be plenty for everyday use. If you want to hold on to all of your recordings, you can put in your own SD card. The camera supports up to a 128GB card, and setup takes just a few minutes. That’s enough for several days’ worth of continuous recording.
But what if you don’t need all those features, and you just want a simple, straightforward camera. If that’s what you’re looking for, consider the Vacos Indoor Cam. It’s a super-affordable indoor camera with only the simplest of features. It also has a compact design, and can be mounted just about anywhere.
The SwitchBot Pan/Tilt Indoor WiFi Cam is an affordable camera that punches above its weight. It’s designed to mount anywhere in the room, even on the ceiling. The panning and tilting design allows it to monitor almost any space, and to track objects in real time. And with the app, you can customize all aspects of its operation. There’s a lot to like here, and relatively little to complain about.